Page images

Bragwell. Read! I believe they do too. Why our Jack, the plow-boy, spends half his time in going to a shop in our market town, where they let out books to read with marble covers. And they sell paper with all manner of colours on the edges, and gin-cracks, and powder-puffs, and wash-balls, and cards without any pips, and every thing in the world that's genteel and of no use. 'Twas but the other day I met Jack with a basket full of these books; so having some time to spare, I sat down to fee a little what they were about.

Worthy. Well, I hope you there found what was likely to improve your daughters, and teach them the true use of time.

Bragwell. O, as to that, you are pretty much out.

I could make neither head nor tail of it: it was neither fish, flesh, nor good red-herring: it was all about my Lord, and Sir Harry, and the Captain. But I never met with such nonsensical fellows in my life. Their talk was no more like that of my old landlord, who


was a Lord you know, nor the Captain of our fencibles, than chalk is like cheese. I was fairly taken in at first, and began to think I had got hold of a godły book; for there was a deal about hope and despair, and death, and heaven, and Angels, and torments, and everlasting happiness. But when I got a little on, I found there was no meaning in all these words, or if

any, it was a bad meaning. Eternal misery, perhaps, only meant a moment's disappointment about a bit of a letter; and everlasting happiness meant two people talking nonsense together for five minutes. In short, I never met with such a pack of lies. The people talk such wild gibberish as no folks in their sober senses ever did talk; and the things that happen to them are not like the things that ever happen to me or any of my acquaintance. They are at home one minute, and beyond sea the next: Beggars to-day, and Lords to morrow: Waiting-maids in the morning, and duchesses at night. Nothing happens in

a nas

a natural gradual way, as it does at home; they grow rich by the stroke of a wand, and poor by the magic of a word; the disinherited orphan of this hour is the overgrown heir of the next: now a bride and bridegroom turn out to be brother and fifter, and the brother and sister prove to be no relations at all. You and I, Master Worthy, have worked hard many years, and think it very well to have scraped a trifle of money together; you a few hundreds I suppose, and I a few thousands. But one would think every man in these books had the bank of England in his 'scrutore. Then there is another thing which I never met with in true life. We think it pretty well, you know, if one has got one thing, and another has got another. I will tell you how I mean. You are reckoned sensible, our Parson is learned, the Squire is rich, I am rather generous, one of your daughters is pretty, and both mine are genteel. But in these books, (except here and there one, whom they make worse than Satan himself) every man and woman's child of them, are all wise, and witty, and generous, and rich, and handsome, and genteel'; and all to the last degree. Nobody is middling, or good in one thing, and bad in another, like my live acquaintance; but it is all up to the skies, or down to the dirt. I had rather read Tom Hickathrift, or Jack the Giant Killer, a thousand times.


Worthy. You have found out, Mr. Bragwell, that many of these books are ridiculous ; I will go farther, and fay, that to ine they appear wicked also: and I should account the reading of them a great mischief, especially to people in middling and low life, if I only took into the account the great loss of time such reading caufes, and the averfion it leaves behind for what is more serious and folid. But this, though a bad part, is not the worst. These books give false views of human life. They teach a contempt for humble and domestic duties; for industry,

frugality frugality and retirement. Want of youth and beauty is considered in them as ridi. culous. Plain people, like you and me, are objects of contempt.

Parental authority is set at nought. Nay, plots and contrivances against parents and guardians, fill half the volumes. They confider love as the great business of human life, and even teach that it is impoffible for this love to be regulated or restrained; and to the indulgence of this passion every duty is therefore sacrificed. A country life, with a kind mother or a sober aumt, is deferibed as a state of intolerable nrifery: and one would be apt to fancy from their painting, that a good country house is a prison, and a worthy father the gaoler. Vice is set off with every ornament which can make it pleasing and amiable; while virtue and piety are made ridiculous, by tacking to them something that is filly or absurd. Crimes which would be considered as hanging matter at our county afrizes,at least if I were a juryman, I should bring




« PreviousContinue »